Rob's Story of his trip to Germany 

Once upon a time not too long ago a couple went on a long trip to a place far away. This couple was Rob and Deb and the place was Germany. This is Robs story of beautiful places, interesting people, good food and drink...

It started Aug 1 2004. We left SFO with the US Olympic swimming team on our plane. Deb met a nice young man who said he hoped to get a medal. She wished him well in his quest but be sure to have a good time in Greece.

We arrived in Frankfort, met some of our traveling mates, Marti and Pat, August & Ken, as well as Enzo our tour leader. We gathered up a few more and off to the hotel on our Trafalgar bus. The hotel was nice though a bit remote. Enzo dropped us off at the Romerplatz in  Frankfort where we saw several things including a red sandstone church and had our first German beer and a sausage. After getting back to the hotel we were afraid to lay down because we might fall asleep so we nipped down to the bar for a happy hour drink a German beer. In talking to Lynn and Will I mentioned we'd been up over 24 hours and were feeling pretty tired. She insisted we looked great. When I told her I was 30 years old she said "For 30 I'd say you look a little tired" B-) Everyone else arrived but it was too noisy for Enzo to do his intro so we had dinner and went to bed.

Next day up bright and early, as usual. Breakfast was great! Enzo did his intro. At last a country that understands breakfast. A real spread including all the usual plus cheese and various baloneys. Breakfast was great every day. Off to Cologne with scenic drive to St. Goar  where we took a boat cruise on the Rhine  river. It was  beautiful. Deb accidentally ordered three beers because she forgot the  word  for "two". Back on the bus for more scenic driving to Cologne. We saw the famous Kolner Dom. While others walked around we went to the Wallraf-Richartz art museum - lots of good stuff there. We always find an Irish pub where ever we go so we had Irish stew and a Guinness for lunch. Later we had a beer in the biergarten behind the hotel, dinner and bed.

Aug 4th. On the road at 7:45 for a long ride to Hamburg. The bus air conditioning died and we sweltered. We couldn't open any windows. This was our first real look at the Autobahn with no speed limit. The rule is no passing on the right and slower traffic move to the  right.
   In Hamburg we walked around and had a wonderful, though expensive, lunch in a place looking out at a beautiful lake.
   We took the optional harbor tour, of course beer included. Very nice. Then on to an included tour. This tour passed by the famous Hamburg red-light district but we didn't see anything. We toured Michaeliskirch which was a beautiful Protestant church. Then to our hotel, dinner, drinks and bed.

Up and on the road. The bus air-conditioning is working. We had a fairly long drive to Berlin. On the way Schreber gardens were pointed out. As I understand it,  the plan was to allow retired people to have a small plot of land to grow vegetables on usually along side freeways or  other unfriendly places. They were allowed to build storage sheds. But the sheds have turned into small houses where people live, at least in the summer. We saw them all over Germany but I think mostly in East Germany. We also saw many power windmills.
   We were dropped off near the "Ka Da We" department store. It is supposed to rival Harrods in London. We went to the top floor for lunch. It was amazing! Talk about a food court! There was everything there, nicely presented and beautiful. We had lunch with Julie and Greg. I don't seem to be having much luck finding a good sausage. I had a hot-dog sort of thing and some German potato salad. Then I had an incident with the ATM in the store - ask me later.
   We saw the bombed Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche church which  has been kept from WWII, it's called "The Tooth" for obvious reasons. We then had a tour of Berlin where we saw the Brandenburg gate among other sights. We stayed in the beautiful Berlin Hilton. We had a beer in a biergarten across the street.
   Dinner was at Gendamenmarkt where there was no air-conditioning (whew!) and a loud  piano player. With unlimited drinks we got pretty warmed up. Had a great time with Will, Lynn and Harry as well as others.

Today we slept in. The breakfast room was a beautiful setting. We hiked over to the sparse Catholic church  then on to Berliner Dom which we climbed and took a few snapshots. Then we experimented with the subway. After much help from a local citizen (thank you!) we finally got to the Kathy Kolowitz museum that Deb had been dying to see. We had lunch at some book museum next door. Very elegant. The waiter, who looked like a typically heavy set German, gave us some grief  for trying to speak German to him. B-) But the lunch was elegant and the setting beautiful. The museum was ok.
   Then back on the subway and after a couple train changes we got to Potzdamer Platz which is near the big Berlin museums. We hiked over to the Gemaldegaleri Alt Meister art museum. Fantastic!
   Back to the hotel for dinner out and fun. We toured Berlin by night and saw the Brandenburg gate again. We almost made it to climb up into  the city hall tower but  it was closing and the guards were not cooperative.

Now off to Dresden. Lot's of  countryside. Lot's  of cows, wheat and mace. It was hot! First we had an interesting time finding an ATM. It was before noon but we had a beer and watched the passing scene. We met up with the rest of the gang and had a professional tour of the city. With the tour we saw a vast porcelain collection. We then hopped on the bus for an optional tour to a hunting castle. Brunhilda wouldn't let us take pictures. This was fairly interesting and a very nice taste of cake at the  end.
Dresden is quite beautiful. We had dinner, of course a beer and went to bed.

The  hotel we stayed in was nice but did not have a hair dryer in the room so that was an adventure asking for that.
   We stopped at Modlareuth, a small country town which had been sliced in two by the fence/wall between East and West Germany. Residents could not acknowledge each other or they could be shot. Quite interesting. We saw a movie on the history.
   On to Bayreuth opera house, Wagner's grave, beer with Harry outside at an elegant bakery. There were Smart cars around that you could sit in so we took a couple pictures. On to Nuremburg our destination. Yet another beautiful old appearing city.
   We had a short orientation tour. Deb and I visited a couple churches. One was under heavy reconstruction inside. We then met Harry and found Helen and Stan and had some famous Nuremburg sausages. Sort of like tasty breakfast sausages. Our bud's Will and Lynn showed up. Back on the bus, we stopped at a stadium where Hitler gave speeches. We climbed up and looked around. Quite an eerie feeling. It looked like the stadium could hold at least 200,000 people.
   Back to the hotel and dinner.

On to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. A classic old German village. Absolutely beautiful. We bought our gifts here, walked around and saw spectacular views. We saw the Mittelalterliches museum (torture museum) but  didn't have time to visit  it after spending most of our time looking for  an ATM and shopping. I finally had the classic sauerkraut and sausage for  lunch. Deb had a liver dumpling and potato dumpling, very good.
   Then because Munich was fairly close we took the "romantic road", actually the old Roman road, on towards Munich. We stopped at a McDonald's in Nordinger. Then on to Munich and the Marianplatz for beer and the world famous glockenspiel. After the glockenspiel did it's thing we went to the famous Hofbrau for a one liter beer and oompah band. The band wasn't too good but the beer was. Then on to a place for dinner -  I had a deep fried pig's knuckle. It  was  quite good. The deep frying holds in the  fat juice which explodes when you cut  it. Mmmmmm.
We stayed at a very nice Hilton.

This day we skipped the ride to Salsburg and Hitler's Eagles nest. We took the subway to Marianplatz and walked to theAlte Pinakothek  museum. It was spectacular, we took our time and saw it all. Many Rubens' including one 30+ feet high. We bumped into Philip there. Then a stroll back through a couple churches, one was all white inside, and a castle before getting back to Marianplatz, a beer and one more spectacular small chapel the Asamkirche. We went back to the hotel  to meet Philip and take a taxi out to the restaurant to meet the gang. The taxi guy was about 70 years old, Greek and got lost on the way. After a couple screw ups he finally got us there. We almost got hit at the last moment just before we got out of the taxi. Another very nice meal then back to the hotel and bed.

Up extra early to get to Dachau, another beautiful Hilton breakfast. We arrived first even before Dachau was open. We walked in along the barrier fence. There is a large assembly area in front of two rebuilt barracks. Foundations for about 40 large barracks still exist. The barracks have interiors as they were at various times. We walked down towards where chapels now exist and on to the old and new crematoriums. It is said this was not an extermination camp but a work camp even though there  is a gas chamber.. Many died working and were cremated here. There is also a mass grave nearby. Back at the main administration building is a sparse but effective museum. Many groups were brought here  besides Jews. There is a map at the  museum showing many satellite work camps.
   Back through Munich rush hour  traffic and on to Oberammergau. A cute little shopping town in a beautiful setting. Deb bought the charm for our anniversary charm bracelet. Then back on the narrow twisty but beautiful "romantic road". We stopped for lunch below the Schlossneuschwanstein fairy castle. Apparently there was not enough time to climb up and take a close look. Back on the bus for a long twisty ride with a stop at Bisilika Birnau on Lake Constance apparently for the bus drivers mandatory break.  A  pretty church overlooking the lake - spectacular.
   Finally we arrived at our hotel at the base of a canyon in the Black Forest. It is a stunningly beautiful setting. Supposedly Marie Antonette stayed here on her trip to marry the king of France. Our room was a suite! Dinner was fun, I had wild boar. Very good! Then back to our room where we invited Will and Lynn to visit. Then to bed.

This morning we hated to leave this beautiful place. We saw the big Cuckoo clock strike nine and off we went to Baden Baden. When you see "bad" it means "spa". So this is an important spa town. People come from all over Germany to "take the waters" here at government expense. We had a short stop here, Deb had a pretzel and I had a strudel while walking around. Then on to Heidelburg.
   We hiked up to the falling down castle on the hill. Hot,  hot , hot! We enjoyed the  view and saw the worlds largest wine vat, for whatever that's worth. Back down the hill we had chicken nuggets, fries and beer for lunch. Back on the bus and on to Frankfort.
   This night we had our going away dinner. We saw our first bit of rain. Enzo said we were the best group he ever had, Deb won a prize for naming everybody on the tour. We all got noisy and said too many good byes but it was fun. Back at the hotel we had another beer with the gang plus a few characters from Circ de Soliel.

Off to the  airport at 10:45 for our flight home. At the airport we had our last "pils" and saw Harry for  one last time. The flight home was uneventful though some interesting views out the window of glaciers in Iceland, formations in Canada and big clouds. We arrived home about 7pm.

Everyone lived happily ever after. "Thank you Enzo!"

- You may wonder why we seemed to have many short stops. The German law says the bus driver must take a break every few hours, besides we needed to stretch and pee.

- We drank "pils" a light hoppy style beer not unlike Budweiser.

- We had very good luck with communication. Most people seemed to know some English and some knew a lot. If there was a problem I'd whip out my Rick Steve's book and point.

- We saw many places that were still working on restoration from WWII, especially in the East.

- Trafalgar does a great job. The hotels were very nice even though one was pretty warm and didn't have air conditioning.

- Enzo the tour guide was great - "Ha-loooow"

- Of course Horst our bus driver.

- I think all places had these strange down comforters instead of sheets and blankets. They seemed to be too hot.

- My camera, Kodak Easy Share cx6230, takes pretty good 2meg pixel pictures but is slow to boot up, slow to store pictures and has  a strange delay between pushing the button and taking the picture. It is also very sensitive to motion. Beware.

- The exchange rate deterioated throughout the trip from $1.20/euro to $1.24/euro. Not a good exchange rate. At least the beer was reasonable.